Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Guernsey Watch

I’ve been looking at the news coming from Guernsey in the Guernsey Press and Star in the wake of the Brexit vote. Guernsey has of course featured in a comment by France´s economy minister Emmanuel Macron: "Leaving the EU would mean the ´Guernseyfication´ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post and arbitration place at Europe´s border."

But I've tracked down an even earlier form of that Guernsey comparison - "One or two near-certainties stand out. A post-Brexit Britain would be a cross between a greater Norway and a greater Guernsey. " said David Marquand in The New Statesman, 1996!

A number of canny Guernsey folk were hedging their bets on the result of the Referndum, correctly as it turned out, as sterling fell after the result, and is still expected to do. A range of currency experts are expecting more falls after a brief reprieve as it gained a little yesterday. They say that another 5 percent-10 percent drop from current levels can't be ruled out in the next couple of weeks.

DOUBLE the number of Euros have been sold by bureau de change Batif in the lead up to today’s EU referendum. Boley Smillie, chief executive of Guernsey Post which runs it, said it had to order 100,000 euros to meet demand – with some people even reserving them yesterday. ‘We have had a run on euros, sales are up 100% on what we would expect for this time of year,’ he said. ‘The run has just been this week, in the last few days. ‘The interesting point for us is that it is good news for business right now, but people might just be buying them ahead of time, so there could be a reduction in how much is being bought later this year.’

On a non-EU related issue, it was rather nice to see that Herm’s five pupils had the chance to be outside, and presumably managed to find a day of fine weather as well! The Channel Islands, along with the UK, seem to be suffering “British Summer” at the moment, spells of sunshine punctuated by heavy showers! Do any Jersey schools do this, I wonder?

HERM SCHOOL took part in Empty Classroom Day last week, joining thousands of children across the world in celebrating the benefits of working outdoors. Empty Classroom Day is part of a global campaign, backed by Persil, to make the school day more fun and get children back to nature. The Herm children are lucky enough to be able to use the entire island as their playground and often take activities outside anyway. Nature walks, tree planting, art in the woods and drama out on the hills and fields have been part of the Herm School curriculum for years.

This was the first time they have spent the entire day outside and luckily the weather was good

Returning to the Referendum. After the result, Guernsey started looking at what the economic landscape may look like without the protection of Protocol 3:

The vote to leave the European Union – by 51.9 to 48.1% – has led Prime Minister David Cameron to resign this morning, immediate stock market volatility and the pound suffering its biggest ever drop. It means that Protocol 3, which allows the island to trade freely in physical goods with the EU, will fall away and need to be replaced amid the UK exit negotiations, which will begin when a new prime minister is in place. Guernsey is not a member of the EU, but Protocol 3, which will need to be replaced as part of the UK’s exit negotiations, ensures free movement of goods. In terms of the finance industry, while Guernsey is not part of the EU it is instead treated as a third country, implementing those measures it needs to ensure equivalence and access to the European markets – that remains unchanged by the vote.

This led to a lively discussion on how truthful the Brexit campaigners had been, and how immigration fears had driven the debate. The Australian style immigration system which has been mooted came in for some sarcastic comments:

How the hell can you have the same border controls as Australia? Apart from New Guinea, The nearest country is more than two thousand miles away. In contrast you can see France from England.

Meanwhile, Tourism is benefiting from cruise passengers, or so it would appear. The article on this was said to be by some a piece of promotional fluff:

SHOPS, hotels and tourist attractions are said to be reaping the benefits of the thousands of cruise passengers who have visited the island so far this year. From the beginning of April until the recent visit of the Disney Magic, a total of 52,000 passengers have come ashore. This weekend will be the busiest of the season, with 3,600 people on board visiting ships on Saturday and a record-breaking 8,100 on Sunday. Businesses reported more footfall so far this year compared with last and they said Guernsey had received positive feedback from cruise visitors, with many passengers booking hotels for return trips.

How accurate is that report? Some Guernsey people had a very cynical view of how much the cruise ships contributed to the economy, others regarded cruise ship days as a time to keep out of Town, but one business owner gave a more positive perspective. Here is a selection of comments.

Yes, they may buy a cup of coffee and a snack, visit a museum (or the popular, free, Little Chapel, sadly covered in scaffolding), book a tour or use the £1 bus, but that provides hardly sufficient revenue to improve our economy and offset the desecration of Town and the loss of business through locals staying out of Town on cruise ship days.

We avoid town chaos when there's a ship in; let's hope the visitors do spend because my family certainly spends less.

“Businesses Reap Benefits” Interesting – Locals lose 80 parking spaces on Albert Pier when Liners visit plus spaces taken by Train. How much business is lost in town by that? Locals now avoid town on Cruise days.

How much do the profit making Coach Companies pay for use of our public parking space that we cannot use? It must be substantial surely? A 3 hour tour in Vintage bus £59 per person not bad eh? What’s our slice of that for the inconvenience? Retailers deprived of 80 x how many turnover spaces in a day by spending tourists? It’s embarrassing to see Car Driving Tourists who have paid to stay here, just driving around trying to park are we mad or what? They stay in hotels and spend real money will they come back? I think not. Let’s not even mention the hurdles they face on the ferry just to get here.

Just because you don't see hundreds of people walking round Town laden with huge shopping bags doesn't mean the cruise ship passengers aren't spending. I am already aware of a few who have come over on a short break having first visited the island on a cruise ship. I also spoke to a lovely couple last week who were enjoying their time and also wished to return for a longer stay possibly next year (they also liked the Petit Train and said it was not tacky at all).

I am far more inclined to believe the official figures of how many millions of pounds this industry brings to this island than the pure speculation of some of the posts above which are unfortunately very typical of modern-day Guernsey and the constant whingeing and moaning. We should be concentrating on giving these visitors a pleasant experience and showing the best we have to offer to encourage spending and grow the tourism sector.

As co owner of Tapenade I felt I should respond to your comments. We were asked by a representative of Guernsey Harbours for some feedback on how cruise passengers impacted on our business and Octavia responded honestly in that when they are in we see a significant uplift in business.

The majority of the cruise line passengers that we see buy something local - Guernsey ice cream, Fort Grey cheese, bluebottle gin, Rocquettes cider, Golden Guernsey goat’s cheese and Guernsey fudge as well as locally produced crafts. Many will have a sandwich made with Mrs Fiskins pate or fresh crab and some will a locally produced apple juice.

I'm feeling hungry already!

1 comment:

James said...

How the hell can you have the same border controls as Australia? Apart from New Guinea, The nearest country is more than two thousand miles away.

Point of information for the commentator: the nearest country aside from New Guinea is 450 miles (Timor/Leste); the other half of Timor, which is Indonesian territory, you could probably call 500 miles. Mainland Aus to PNG is about 93 miles, but the northernmost of the Torres Strait islands (which is Australian territory) is barely two and a half miles from the coast of PNG - not much different to Sark and Guernsey.